From Portland’s Palate

10 03 2017

IMG_2370The cookbook From Portland’s Palate: A Collection of Recipes from the City of Roses by the Junior League of Portland, Oregon includes nearly 250 recipes that integrate local ingredients such as seafood from the Pacific Ocean, fruit from the Columbia River Gorge, and wine from the Willamette Valley. These recipes are both familiar and innovative. Each section begins with stunning artwork by Illustrator Jennifer Winship Mark along with a page of information and tips about a certain area or season. Not only is this a classic Pacific Northwest cookbook, but it’s also an entertaining read.



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Unpredictable Spring

17 05 2016

IMG_6505As I share about the Pacific Northwest’s timely resources and places, I also simply recognize the gift of experiencing seasons. We’re deep into spring and transitioning from the rainy season to summer’s dry heat. This means that we enjoy hot, sunny days immediately followed by cool, damp ones and vice versa. When marine clouds drift in from the west, we know to protect certain outside items and perhaps, change course. These initial raindrops generate complaints from my outdoorsy children followed by my usual response of, “Free watering for the yard!” I’m still waiting for a positive reception to my statement.

The Willamette Valley, situated between the Cascades and the Coast Range, currently experiences these climate fluctuations every few days, making it challenging to plan outdoor activities. Recently, our forecast of showers became steady rain instead and forced us to switch plans. I bribed my tween and two teens with treats if they ran errands with their dad and me. While we were parked, cozy, and together in our car as rain pelted our sunroof, I looked up and snapped this photo. At that moment, I appreciated the beauty of the droplets and the dark clouds as their backdrop, because without this storm, we’d have scattered for the day. I enjoyed the happy chatter of my family despite the day’s turn of events. I relished this snapshot in time of having them under my wings still, because they’re going to leave the nest soon, one at a time.

Even mundane days deserve the recognition that they’re life’s memory-makers and bonders. I hope we all take mental snapshots of our lives throughout each season and appreciate that sometimes the smallest moments become the biggest.


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Altitude is Everything

30 11 2015

IMG_4652This photo has been a family secret; hidden in my files for five years. I know it’s bad. I wish the picture better exhibited this colossal baking failure. The “before” shot displays the unadorned first attempt at hiding it under frosting. Doesn’t chocolate frosting make everything better? Clearly not. Notice the evidence of two swipes of little fingers across the top. I’m not sure who the culprit was, but I can safely guess that it was one or both of my two youngest children and not their big brother or cousins.

IMG_4654The “after” shot is the final product, presented as a joint-birthday cake to my husband and brother while on vacation. My creative sister-in-law (truly talented at everything!) brainstormed the idea to add marshmallows and chocolate syrup. These marshmallows were the special, ginormous ones meant for some amazing s’mores. The kiddos couldn’t wait to toast them over an open fire. Didn’t happen. We confiscated them with the intention of holding up the cake to keep it from becoming even more of a pancake. It did help some. Next came squirts of chocolate syrup to fancy it up. The positive about that stellar move is that it didn’t hurt the cake or alter its form in any way. We sprinkled the top with powdered sugar and added a few festive (and perhaps, confused) birthday candles, and voila!

How did this cake emerge from the oven looking like a crime scene, you ask? We followed baking instructions explicitly, except we missed that note every box includes about baking at varying altitudes. We didn’t even realize this issue until well after vacation. Rookies. We’re used to baking along the Willamette Valley at about 200 feet in elevation, and we threw this beauty together in Sunriver, Oregon at 4,200 feet. My advice for all traveling or relocated bakers out there is to remember what altitude you’re at and adjust accordingly. Your desserts—and guests—will know otherwise!


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Oregon’s Wild Food Industry

22 02 2014

pearsOregon hangs out in the Pacific Northwest part of the United States of America and receives scant global recognition for its food. When the world thinks of famous chefs, fabulous cuisine, and flourishing gourmets, Oregon remains off the radar. Oregonians, however, claim a rich epicurean history and a spot within the top five states producing crops. Families and foodies know that Oregon leads the wild food industry by offering the best quality raw food in the world because its crops mature slowly in the mild climate. These include melons, pears, grapes, berries, mushrooms, potatoes, onions, nuts, and over 200 additional crops.

The diverse geography breaks Oregon into three crop-growing districts: The Oregon Coast, the Willamette Valley, and Eastern and Southern Oregon. Plant-based crops like trees, herbs, wheat, and grass seeds find the most ideal land in the world right here. Seafood such as fish and shellfish sustained Oregonians for centuries and continues baiting Pacific Northwest palates and beyond.

This trendy farm-to-table movement isn’t a new concept in Oregon, where small farmers’ markets prosper because locals want to know the origin of their food. Eating fresh by adding little to the food allows natural flavors to shine through and provides a healthier diet. This idea influences restaurateurs who buy locally grown ingredients and serve them raw or wild. Another term I heard for this is “unfussy.” I like that; it sums up Oregonians perfectly.

The late chef and food writer James Beard was born in Oregon and became a culinary figure by the mid 20th century. Beard appeared on the very first cooking show on television in the 1940s called I Love to Eat, 15 years before his fan Julia Child stepped in front of the camera. He founded the James Beard Cooking School in 1955 with a passion for teaching clean cooking and pulling the American society out of its Jell-O-mold fog. Beard advocated the farm-to-table philosophy along with preparing and eating the fare with others, so we gain the most enjoyment from it. Beard detested industrial agriculture popularized after WWII saying, “Unfortunately, we’re living in a convenience age where people merely eat to add fodder to the body.” Oregon’s leadership in the current wild food industry would make Beard proud.

To learn more about Oregon’s food history, check out the first uniquely Pacific Northwest cookbook from 1885 called The Web-Foot Cook Book.

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